Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thoughts on Commerce and Christmas (Advent, really)

The reality is that many people in our communities, especially retailers, depend on what they sell around these winter holidays to make ends meet for the year. For these neighbors and their families, this is the time of the year most like what farmers deal with. Trends in taste and the economy, like too much or too little of something in the farmers' weather, can be the difference between bust and bumper crop for retailers.

Society's shift from field to city is reflected in the placement of prayers in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The first English Prayer Books served a culture that was largely agrarian, and were rich with prayers for farmers' concerns. There were "Rogation Days" and prayer processions around farm fields. In the '79 BCP, the traditional prayer for agriculture is accompanied by a prayer for Stewardship of Creation and a prayer for Commerce and Industry, which we might well offer for our neighbors in retail,

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ in his earthly life
shared our toil and hallowed our labor: Be present with your
people where they work; make those who carry on the industries
and commerce of this land responsive to your will; and give
to us all a pride in what we do, and a just return for our labor;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for
ever. Amen.

I think most clergy and many lay Christians are ambivalent about this time of the year. A new church year is just beginning and the telling of Christ's birth is near, but the busyness, especially all the shopping and spending, have displaced the traditional Advent call to contemplation. Church activities seem like the straw that breaks the camels back for many overextended families.

At the malls, muzak versions of great Christian hymns are white noise for a relentless buying and selling, the kind of commerce that troubled several great people in the Bible.

That is to say, "So has it ever been." It is no surprise that Jesus, in Jerusalem during a sacred season, found money-changers' tables to flip, down and out seasonal workers and prostitutes to comfort, and religious leaders to yell at. The sacred and the profane, liberation and exploitation, good and evil always intermingle in our daily lives. God's people need not sulk, even as we seek to be a holy counter-culture,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)


Scott said...

Could just be me, but the 1928 BCP makes it easier to understand the church kalendar.

I continue to light a candle each week on my own advent wreath. It's allowed me a few openings to explain the symbolism to friends unfamiliar with Advent.

As a musician, I have my very own other reasons for railing against "background music", and have been known to sing along or whistle along with whatever is playing in the stores. Yes, I get stares....I don't mind. :-)

TLF+ said...

Scott, while I like the adaptation of the Rogation theme in the '79 Collects, I have to admit that the '28 BCP was more faithful to the simplicity of form and course Bible readings envisioned by the Anglican Reformers. '79 is too much like the proverbial "Chinese Restaurant Menu," "choose one from column A, one from column C..."

That sort of confusing complexity is expressley rejected by the Reformers in the preface to the 1549 BCP.

May holy light lead you through Advent to a joyful Christmas.